Movies are rated on a letter-grade scale, from A to F. Opinions by R-J movie critic Carol Cling (C.C.) are indicated by initials. Other opinions are from wire service critics.
Motion Picture Association of America ratings:
G - General audiences, all ages.
PG - Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13 - Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children under 13.
R - Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or guardian.
NC-17 - No one under 17 admitted.
NR - Not rated.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS
(C+) Everybody's favorite singing chipmunks add rap to their repertoire in a live-action/animation combo starring Jason Lee (TV's "My Name Is Earl") as David Seville, who loses control of the computer-generated title cuties (voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney) to an evil music executive. (92 min.) PG; mild rude humor.
(B) Keira Knightley reunites with "Pride & Prejudice" director Joe Wright for an admirable, if less than enthralling, adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel, set in 1935 Britain, about a precocious 13-year-old (Saoirse Ronan), who misinterprets the romance between a servant's son ("The Last King of Scotland's" James McAvoy) and her older sister (Knightley). Winner of one Academy Award: best original score. (123 min.) R; disturbing war images, profanity, sexual situations. (C.C.)
BE KIND REWIND
(B-) When a dimwit mechanic (Jack Black) becomes caught in an electromagnetic field, his magnetized presence accidentally erases the tapes in a video store run by his childhood pal (Mos Def), forcing the duo to star in remakes of everything from "King Kong" to "Citizen Kane." (And nobody knows or cares about the difference.) A thin, airy premise threatens to dissolve this whimsical fable from "Science of Sleep" writer-director Michel Gondry, but a bigger-than-average heart saves the day -- and the movie. (100 min.) PG-13; sexual references.
(B -- what else?) Just out of college, bee student Barry B. Benson (voiced by Jerry Seinfeld, who also co-writes) rebels and ventures outside the hive, where he encounters a sympathetic florist (voiced by Renée Zellweger) -- and decides to sue the human race for stealing honey. Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Alan Arkin, Oprah Winfrey and Kathy Bates buzz in and out of this fast-flying cartoon, while Seinfeld bats a zinger for every stinger. (90 min.) PG; mild suggestive humor.
(B-) A new Idaho widow (Jessica Lange) and her best friends (Kathy Bates, Joan Allen) hit the road in a cherry-red 1966 Pontiac convertible, bound for California on a life-changing odyssey filled with laughter, tears -- and an unexpected date in Las Vegas. Don't be fooled by the gals-in-a-vintage-convertible routine, though; "Thelma and Louise" it ain't. Yet despite its soothingly familiar itinerary, "Bonneville's" enormously winning star trio makes it a trip worth taking -- even if it seems, as it often does, that we've driven down this particular road many times before. (103 min.) PG; mild profanity and innuendo. (C.C.)
THE BUCKET LIST
(C) Doing it to death: After sharing a hospital room during cancer treatment, a grouchy billionaire (Jack Nicholson) and a dignified mechanic (Morgan Freeman) share death-defying adventures during one last spree. Despite the dynamic duo of Nicholson and Freeman, Rob Reiner's languid pacing and hokey staging transform what might have been a touching meditation on life's fleeting wonders into a maudlin exercise in audience manipulation. (97 min.) PG-13; sexual references, profanity. (C.C.)
(B-) After he's kicked out of private school -- again -- a lonely, brainy rich kid ("Alpha Dog's" Anton Yelchin) goes slumming at the local public high school, where he becomes self-appointed psychiatrist (and prescription-pill supplier) for his new classmates. Not in the same league as "Pump Up the Volume," but an articulate script and an engaging supporting cast (led by Hope Davis as Charlie's oblivious, pill-popping mother, and Robert Downey Jr. as his beleaguered principal) help keep the mildly satiric hits coming. (97 min.) R; profanity, drug use, brief nudity, brief violence. (C.C.)
CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR
(B) Finally, a movie about America's (mis)adventures in Afghanistan that's actually entertaining, focusing a good-time Texas congressman (a wry Tom Hanks), a right-wing Houston socialite (a sly Julia Roberts) and a rogue CIA agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in another grand-slam portrayal) teaming up to funnel money and weapons to Mujahedin rebels after the 1979 Soviet invasion. (97 min.) R; profanity, sexual situations, nudity, drug use. (C.C.)
CITY OF MEN
(B-) A gang war in Rio de Janeiro's drug-infested slums provides the backdrop for this drama -- a companion piece to 2002's "City of God" -- about two teenage buddies (Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha), who discover secrets about their missing fathers' pasts that threaten to shatter their friendship. Inspired by a Brazilian TV series, this suffers from contrivance and flashiness, but ultimately wins you over with a steady, underlying flow of intimacy and compassion. In Portuguese with English subtitles. (110 min.) R; violence, profanity, sexuality.
(C+) Or maybe not: A 30-something political consultant (Ryan Reynolds) tries to explain his romantic past to his inquisitive 10-year-old daughter ("Little Miss Sunshine's" Abigail Breslin), who wants to know everything about her dad's love life with three very different women (Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz). They're all appealing, which is more than we can say, at times, for a disjointed romantic comedy from writer-director Adam Brooks ("Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason") that strains to realize its smart, rueful potential. (105 min..) PG-13; sexual content, profanity, smoking. (C.C.)
DIARY OF THE DEAD
(C-) While shooting a horror movie, film students (Joshua Close, Michelle Morgan) encounter real-life zombies in "Night of the Living Dead" director George A. Romero's latest creature feature. Alas, Romero's fifth "Dead" movie in four decades seems almost dead-on-arrival; after far too many imitations, this is moderately scary, moderately amusing, intermittently dull and obvious. Far from groundbreaking, it's not even ground-quaking. (95 min.) R; horror violence and gore, profanity, adult themes.
(B) When an evil queen (Susan Sarandon) zaps storybook princess Giselle (enchanting Amy Adams) to modern-day Manhattan to get her away from her princely stepson (James Marsden, delightfully dunderheaded), Giselle's new surroundings -- and a dreamy divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) -- alter her happily-ever-after plans. This fractured fairy tale succumbs to computerized effects overkill at the end, but until then it's a tuneful Disney charmer that salutes and spoofs studio traditions. (107 min.) PG; scary images, mild innuendo. (C.C.)
(D+) Following a corneal transplant, a blind violinist (laughably miscast Jessica Alba) recovers her sight, but is tormented by strange, shadowy images, which may be her imagination -- or visions of a terrifying supernatural world. Alessandro Nivola and Parker Posey (let's hope they both got fat paychecks) co-star in a preposterous remake of a Hong Kong horror hit that was -- surprise! -- far more compelling before it got lost in translation. (97 min.) PG-13; violence/terror and disturbing content.
(D+) Pure pyrite: "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" sweethearts Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey reunite for an "as-if" action romp about newly divorced couple on the trail of long-lost Spanish treasure. Donald Sutherland (as a globe-trotting billionaire), Ray Winstone (a rival treasure-hunter), Kevin Hart (a treasure-lusting rapper) and his henchmen (Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Brian Hooks) co-star; let's hope they all enjoyed their tropical trek, because the movie they brought back is a tedious waste of time -- especially yours. (112 min.) PG-13; action violence, sexual situations and references, brief nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
HANNAH MONTANA & MILEY CYRUS: BEST OF BOTH WORLDS CONCERT
(B-) It's screaming-tweenie time as the Disney Channel's singing sensation takes the stage in a 3-D concert film, with Miley Cyrus appearing as herself -- and her TV alter ego, rock princess Hannah Montana. The 3-D camera throws drumsticks and confetti in our faces, but the technical effects seem superfluous to the star's bona fide energy. It's all totally slick and vanilla, but you have to like a kid who works this hard. (74 min.) G; all ages.
I AM LEGEND
(C+) Will Smith steps into the roomy shoes of Charlton Heston (1971's "The Omega Man") and Vincent Price (1964's "The Last Man on Earth"), playing the last uninfected survivor of a cataclysmic plague that's transformed fellow survivors into ravenous vampires. The movie's depiction of a post-apocalyptic New York City is suitably creepy, but director Francis Lawrence ("Constantine") zooms through fleeting food-for-thought passages to get to the action. (100 min.) PG-13; intense sci-fi action, violence. (C.C.)
(C+) Laurel-and-Hardy hit men -- one (Colin Farrell) forever getting into not-so-fine messes, the other (Brendan Gleeson) stuck with cleaning them up -- bide their time on an enforced vacation in the picturesque Belgian town of Bruges, awaiting further instructions from their rabid boss (Ralph Fiennes). Playwright-turned-director Martin McDonagh's off-kilter killers prove diverting, but in trying to balance twisted humor and explosive violence, McDonagh creates a wild yet only sporadically satisfying trip. (107 min.) R; strong bloody violence, pervasive profanity, sexual references, drug use. (C.C.)
(C-) A genetic glitch allows a young man (a sullen Hayden Christensen) to teleport himself anywhere, anytime -- and into a centuries-long war between the "jumpers" and their enemies -- in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" director Doug Liman's sci-fi misfire. Rarely have so many humdrum digital effects and so much expensive location photography been lavished upon so many disagreeable characters (played by, among others, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane and Rachel Bilson). They deserve better; so do we. (88 min.) PG-13; intense action violence, profanity, brief sexuality.
(B) Major critical buzz (only some of it deserved) surrounds this witty comedy-drama, from screenwriter du jour Diablo Cody, about a wisecracking high school misfit (a deadpan Ellen Page), pregnant by her boyfriend ("Superbad's" Michael Cera), who finds a seemingly perfect couple (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner) to adopt the baby. Mostly a delight, if a bit too self-consciously clever for its own good. Winner of one Academy Award: best original screenplay. (92 min.) PG-13; mature themes, sexual situations, profanity. (C.C.)
MEET THE SPARTANS
(D-) How do you make fun of something that was already dangerously close to self-parody? Badly, in turns out, in an alleged "300" spoof that finds 13 strapping warriors (led by erstwhile TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo) attempting to defend their homeland from invading Persians -- and a few dirt-cheap laughs. Sean Maguire, "Borat's" Ken Davitian and Carmen Electra round out the cast of a movie that's virtually indistinguishable from its dopiest targets. (94 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, profanity, comic violence.
NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS
(B-) Dauntless treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) returns for more fractured history lessons and Indiana Jones-ing as he searches for 18 missing pages from the diary of Abraham Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth -- which could prove the key to an international conspiracy. Silly, breezy escapism with nothing on its mind but unpretentious fun. (124 min.) PG; action violence.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
(A) The Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, get back to basics with an instant-classic adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel of the wild New West, finding deadpan humor on the blood-soaked trail of a crime spree gone wrong, as a good ol' boy (Josh Brolin) finds $2 million at the site of a botched drug deal -- and flees from a spectral psycho killer (a stunning, Oscar-winning Javier Bardem) who wants his money back. Tommy Lee Jones rounds out the superb starring trio as a sheriff who wonders where the code of the West went. Winner of four Academy Awards: best picture, supporting actor, directing and adapted screenplay. (122 min.) R; strong graphic violence, profanity, nudity. (C.C.)
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL
(B-) Historical hooey: In 16th-century England, two sisters from the powerful Boleyn family -- scheming Anne (Natalie Portman) and dreamy Mary (Scarlett Johansson) -- vie for the heart (and hot bod) of lusty, zesty King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) in an adaptation of Phillppa Gregory's best-selling bodice-ripper that suggests a Tudor-era combo of "Mean Girls" and "Desperate Housewives." OK as far as it goes -- which is not far enough. (115 min.) PG-13; mature themes, sexual content, violent images.
(B) Returning to Las Vegas after its U.S. premiere at 2007's CineVegas film festival, this modern-day fairy tale focuses on a lovely young heiress (Christina Ricci), who's cursed with a pig's snout for a nose -- and an overbearing mother (Catherine O'Hara) anxious to marry her off to the first male blue blood ("Atonement's" James McAvoy) who can stand to be in the same room with her. Ah, but looks can prove deceiving -- in all sorts of ways -- as this whimsical charmer demonstrates, at least to tween girls and soft-hearted romantics of all ages. (102 min.) PG; profanity, innuendo, mature themes. (C.C.)
(C) Quibble and dribble: Once again, Will Ferrell drapes his goofy man-child persona in 1970s polyester as the owner-coach-power forward of an American Basketball Association franchise on its last legs. The setups are promising, but the payoffs are as flat as an airless red-white-and-blue ball, even with Woody Harrelson, André "3000" Benjamin, "ER's" Maura Tierney, Jackie Earle Haley and Ferrell's "Blades of Glory" co-stars Will Arnett, Rob Corddry and Andy Richter on the team. (90 min.) R; profanity, sexual content.
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES
(B-) After moving (unwillingly) to a rundown estate, twin brothers (one rebellious, one brainiac, both played by Freddie Highmore) and their plucky older sister (Sarah Bolger) battle hobgoblins, trolls and other assorted beasties lurking in the woods. This brisk adaptation of Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black's fantasy tales overdoes the computer-generated effects, but potent fractured-family themes, plus memorable turns by Nick Nolte (as the movie's resident monster), Mary-Louise Parker (as the kids' embattled mother) and David Strathairn (as the inquisitive scientist who started it all) make this an all-ages treat. (97 min.) PG; scary creature action and violence, peril, thematic elements. (C.C.)
STEP UP 2 THE STREETS
(C-) Been there, danced that: In this sequel to the 2006 sleeper, romantic sparks strike between a street dancer (Briana Evigan, daughter of actor Greg Evigan) and a new classmate (Robert Hoffman) at the Maryland School of the Arts. Less a sequel than a variation on a theme, this dance movie can move -- which is fortunate, because the rest of it, from the predictable class conflicts to sanitized keeping-it-real bluster, is too leaden to get off the ground. (98 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual references, brief violence.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
(A-) Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia") finally gets out of his own quirky way to spread his filmmaking wings with an epic adaptation of Upton Sinclair's "Oil!" about the showdown between a budding oil baron (powerhouse Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis) and a neophyte preacher (Paul Dano) in early 20th-century California. A bit overlong and over-the-top, this gripping study of all-American greed and rapaciousness signals Anderson has finally struck gold -- black gold. Winner of two Academy Awards: best actor (Day-Lewis) and cinematography. (158 min.) PG-13; violence. (C.C.)
(B-) Here's a toast to this semi-sparkling romantic comedy about a perennial bridesmaid ("Knocked Up's" Katherine Heigl), whose fixation on other people's weddings -- and the lack of romance in her own life -- makes her a prime target for a cynical reporter ("Enchanted's" James Marsden) desperate to escape the wedding beat. As frilly and fluffy as the title attire, but a nimble cast and an insouciant spirit make this more fun than its by-the-numbers plot indicates. (107 min.) PG-13; profanity, innuendo and sexuality. (C.C.)
(C-) Bringing new meaning to the term "Internet hit," an FBI agent Diane Lane) races against the clock to catch a psycho who displays his graphic murders online -- with visitors to the site determining how fast his captives die. Lane is, as always, fascinating, but this abhorrent cyberthriller exploits the inhumanity of torture as it cynically condemns Internet rubberneckers (and by extension, moviegoers) for watching it. (111 min.) R; strong gruesome violence, profanity.
(C+) You've gotta get a gimmick, and this topical thriller has one, exploring an apparent assassination and terrorist attack at an international summit from multiple perspectives, including those of Secret Service agents (Dennis Quaid, "Lost's" Matthew Fox), an American tourist (Forest Whitaker), a TV news producer (Sigourney Weaver) and the U.S. president (William Hurt) himself. Alas, it's not enough to have a gimmick -- you've gotta know what to do with it, and "Vantage Point" doesn't, forcing us to solve a puzzle where the pieces never fit together. (90 min.) PG-13; intense violence and action, disturbing images, brief profanity. (C.C.)
WELCOME HOME, ROSCOE JENKINS
(C) A big TV star (Martin Lawrence) gets cut down to size when he heads south to join his extended family for his parents' 50th anniversary celebration, reconnecting with old rivals (Cedric the Entertainer) and old flames (Nicole Ari Parker) alike. Despite a promising premise and an all-star cast (including James Earl Jones, Michael Clarke Duncan, Mo'Nique and Mike Epps), this recycles so much material it's a wonder the film stock didn't turn green during filming . (114 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity, drug references. (C.C.)